Out of all the conferences out there, the Amplifying Your Effectiveness conference is surely one of the most curious. Started in 2000 as a challenge (so he told me) from Jerry Weinberg (“so do you think you can do better”) to his protégés who were complaining about talking-heads conferences (“of course we can”), the AYE conference has been going strong for almost 10 years, and has garnered a loyal circle of attendees.
What stood out for me when I visited AYE for the first time in 2007, was how welcome I felt from day one. It was a stark contrast with a completely different gathering that I visited in Stockholm the year after. At the Stockholm gathering, I remember walking up to one of the hosts, and introducing myself. I explained that I worked for one of the companies sponsoring the conference. His reply was short: “Ok. Nice to meet you”. Then he turned around and walked away. I did not feel welcome.
Contrast this with the AYE approach. Before the conference begins proper, a pre-conference tutorial is arranged. Intended for first time visitors, this full day session not only works through the core topics of the conference, but also gives ample time for letting people get to know one another. The exercises used aren’t rocket science, which is probably why so many other conferences shun them – they seem almost silly. Participants show and tell their stories, and listen carefully to each other. It works wonders for relationships.
When the desert sun (AYE is held in Phoenix, Arizona) finally sets on the tutorial day, the conference is kicked off with a big outdoors welcoming dinner. A simple thing too, but very effective. People are seated around round tables of course, so you can really see each other.
Another seemingly minor detail stands out for me. AYE participants all create their own name tags, and carry them around their neck using a green strap. This means that, as you walk around the large hotel, which is flat rather than high, you constantly say hello to other participants (even those you don’t yet know very well) wearing the signature AYE neck strap.
If you haven’t tried it already, and you’re interested in the topics covered (teamwork, communication skills, leadership, change) give the AYE conference a chance next year. I’m sure I’ll be there again. And if you think this reads like a commercial, then so be it. Some things are just so good I feel I absolutely have to help sell them.